Never before has the UN Drug World Report been discussed and written about so much. The internet has certainly helped fuel the debate and make strong opinions available but the real driving force is the change of attitude towards the "War on Drugs". Where once you were deemed a bit nutty or an obvious druggie by calling for legalisation, it is now common place for media outlets to have a least one article calling for a change in drug policy. This huge shift in thinking has obviously affected the UN which is renown for their strict, US style, zero tolerance stance on drug use. The rhetoric is still thick and their mixed message remains illogical but the latest World Drug Report is the most compassionate and pragmatic public statement to date. The big question remains though - will governments (especially the US) change their drug policies and laws? Will those countries that use the UN as an excuse to implement harsh drug laws remain faithful to the UN or will they selectively choose to ignore the latest message? I can’t see Russia suddenly introducing methadone or China, Singapore and Indonesia halting their executions of drug dealers. Nor can I envisage countries like Japan, the UK or France reducing their reliance on law and order and making drug use more of a health issue. Even locally in Australia, it’s a big stretch to imagine the current Rudd government having an honest debate about drug use or to have a shift in thinking that focusses on treatment rather than incarceration. Suddenly, the Greens and Democrats drug policies are looking more realistic and those politicians who ridiculed them so aggressively are looking more like the ignorant, self serving meat-heads that they are. Listed below are several articles that give some insight into what the 314 page report entails. First up is an overview from TIME Magazine in it’s entirety. Following that are the first few paragraphs of each article. Click the [more] link for the entire article. U.N. World Drug Report TIME By M.J. Stephey June 2009
The Gist: This year's report from the U.N.'s Office on Drugs and Crime did something that last year's did not: it addressed the "growing chorus" of people in favor of abolishing drug laws altogether. And though its authors maintain that legalizing narcotics would be an "epic mistake," the office's executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, does agree that loosening regulations might not be such a bad idea: "You can't have effective control under prohibition, as we should have learned from our failed experiment with alcohol in the U.S. between 1920 and 1933." Highlight Reel: 1. On cocaine and heroin trafficking: "The $50 billion global cocaine market is undergoing seismic shifts. Purity levels and seizures are down, prices are up, and consumption patterns are in flux. This may explain the gruesome upsurge of violence in countries like Mexico ... While 41 % of the world's cocaine is being seized (mostly in Colombia), only one-fifth (19%) of all opiates are being intercepted ... In 2007, Iran seized 84% of the world's opium and 28% of all heroin." 2. On moving beyond "reactive law enforcement": "Those who take the "drug war" metaphor literally may feel this effort is best advanced by people in uniform with guns [but] in the end, the criminal-justice system is a very blunt instrument for dealing with drug markets ... the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of individuals is an extremely slow, expensive and labor-intensive process." 3. On targeting the right people in cracking down on drug dealing: "Street drug markets do not exist in a vacuum. The drama is played out on a very particular kind of stage, and it is the stage manager, not the actors, that must be addressed. The property in these areas is owned by someone, someone whose neglect of their property allows illicit activity to continue. Unlike the street addicts and gang members, this someone has something of value to lose — their property." See a graphic on addiction and the brain. 4. On scrapping the one-size-fits-all approach: "There is a common tendency to treat the galaxy of illicit substances as an undifferentiated mass. Different drugs come from different places, attract different consumers, and are associated with different problems ... For example, cannabis is grown in at least 176 countries around the world. It can be grown indoors or outdoors, and is often cultivated in small plots by users themselves ... For most synthetic drugs, the skills needed to access and process the needed chemicals are not widely spread and, consequently, the market tends to favor more organized groups ... In contrast, most of the cultivation of drug crops like coca and opium poppy is confined to small areas within two or three countries. Most of the world's heroin supply is produced on a land area about the size of Greater London." The Lowdown: "It all started in Shanghai in 1909," the authors note of the dawn of narcotics regulation. And what a century it's been. What began as an opium epidemic in China has since become a global problem that includes heroin, cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines and a host of other illicit substances that compose a $320 billion–a–year industry, making drugs one of the most valuable commodities in the world. But despite arguments that legalizing drugs would destroy the organized-crime rings that currently control the market, the report argues that "mafia coffers are equally nourished by the trafficking of arms, people and their organs, by counterfeiting and smuggling, racketeering and loan-sharking, kidnapping and piracy, and by violence against the environment." As Costa said in a statement announcing the report's release, "It is no longer sufficient to say: no to drugs. We have to state an equally vehement: no to crime." The Verdict: Skim.UN Backs Drug Decriminalization In World Drug Report The Huffington Post By Ryan Grim
In an about face, the United Nations on Wednesday lavishly praised drug decriminalization in its annual report on the state of global drug policy. In previous years, the UN drug czar had expressed skepticism about Portugal's decriminalization, which removed criminal penalties in 2001 for personal drug possession and emphasized treatment over incarceration. The UN had suggested the policy was in violation of international drug treaties and would encourage "drug tourism." But in its 2009 World Drug Report, the UN had little but kind words for Portugal's radical (by U.S. standards) approach. "These conditions keep drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users. Among those who would not welcome a summons from a police officer are tourists, and, as a result, Portugal's policy has reportedly not led to an increase in drug tourism," reads the report. "It also appears that a number of drug-related problems have decreased." [more]Drug Czar Kerlikowske Addresses Un Report On Success Of Decriminalization, Without Mentioning Decriminalization NORML By Russ Belville
The remarks from our Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy on the release of the UN 2009 World Drug Report, which endorsed drug decriminalization in a reversal of previous policy. Guess which 17-letter D-word never gets mentioned once in our “drug czar’s” 781-word statement? Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. The UN notes that decriminalization in Portugal “keep[s] drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users” and “It also appears that a number of drug-related problems have decreased.” [more]World Drug Report Preface Majors On Legalisation Transform
Below is the text from the Preface to World Drug Report 2009 - dominated by a detailed rebuttal of the growing calls for a debate on legal regulation of drug production and supply. We have deconstructed these kind of critiques so many times before, we won’t be doing it again here - other than to observe it is the same confused mix of misrepresentations, straw man arguments, and logical fallacies that we are used to hearing from the UNODC's drug warriors. The particularly strange thing here though is that some of the analysis of the problem, the critique at least, is actually fairly good - it's where it leads that is so extraordinary.... [more]World Drugs In Graphics BBC News
A UN agency has published a comprehensive report on the worldwide illicit drugs market, the World Drug Report 2009. The graphs and maps below show the extent of the problem and measures to tackle it. [more]BETWEEN THE LINES As usual, the UN Drug World Report is full of praise for their own contribution to another successful year in the fight against drugs. How they qualify a success is up for debate. Once again, the UN has the drug situation under control and the projection of a better outcome next time remains a permanent promise. The report is contradictory and contains some gapping holes in logic but if you read closely, the statistics form the real picture. Production Levels The production of some drugs is down in some countries and in others, it is up. It’s the same every year. An added factor is that customs only stop about less than 20% of drug imports. In other words, drugs are readily available to anyone who seeks them ... just like last year and the year before etc.
Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, where 93% of the world's opium is grown, declined 19% in 2008, according to the UN world drug report. In Colombia, which produces half of the world's cocaine, cultivation of coca fell 18% while production declined 28% compared with 2007. Global coca production, at 845 tonnes, was said to be at a five-year low, despite some increases in cultivation in Peru and Bolivia... [...] His call for international law enforcement to target traffickers rather than users came as it was announced that there is a worldwide growth in synthetic drugs. -The GuardianCannabis Potency Straight from the horse’s mouth - cannabis potency has doubled in the US over the last 10 years. The claims of 10 to 30 times stronger are as ridiculous as they first sounded.
Cannabis remains the most widely cultivated and used drug around the world, although estimates are less precise. Data also show that it is more harmful than commonly believed, said the report. The average THC content (the harmful psychotropic component) of hydroponic marijuana in North America almost doubled in the past decade. "This has major health implications as evidenced by a significant rise in the number of people seeking treatment," said the report. -The GuardianDrug Use From the UN’s figures, only 10-15% of users have a drug problem. At most, that’s 38 million out of 250 million drug users worldwide.
UNODC estimates that between 172 and 250 million persons used illicit drugs at least once in the past year in 2007. But these large figures include many casual consumers who may have tried drugs only once in the whole year. It is important, therefore, to also have estimates of the number of people who are heavy or “problematic” drug users. This group consumes most of the drugs used each year; they are very likely to be dependent upon drugs, would benefit from treatment, and many of the impacts upon public health and public order are likely to be affected by their levels of use. Estimates made by UNODC suggest that there were between 18 and 38 million problem drug users aged 15-64 years in 2007. -2009 UN Drug World ReportIncrease in Cannabis Treatment The UN reports that there are between 143 and 190 million people who used cannabis in the previous 12 months. It should be noted that most of those being treated for cannabis are involuntary patients or are doing so to placate the law, employers or family. Also, most of those have not smoked cannabis in the prior month which is unusual for something that is supposed to be addictive. Decriminalisation Works The UN has always strongly been opposed to decriminalisation. When Portugal first decriminalised small amounts of drugs, the UN predicted chaos would follow and have been critical ever since. This year they have nothing but praise for the success of Portugal’s actions.
In an about face, the United Nations on Wednesday lavishly praised drug decriminalization in its annual report on the state of global drug policy. In previous years, the UN drug czar had expressed skepticism about Portugal's decriminalization, which removed criminal penalties in 2001 for personal drug possession and emphasized treatment over incarceration. The UN had suggested the policy was in violation of international drug treaties and would encourage "drug tourism." But in its 2009 World Drug Report, the UN had little but kind words for Portugal's radical (by U.S. standards) approach. "These conditions keep drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users. Among those who would not welcome a summons from a police officer are tourists, and, as a result, Portugal's policy has reportedly not led to an increase in drug tourism," reads the report. "It also appears that a number of drug-related problems have decreased." -The Huffington PostTreatment vs Criminality Harsh drug laws has always been at the core of the UN’s drug policy. Treatment was always a secondary issue compared to arrest and tough policing. The well being of users including those with HIV/AIDS, has generally been overlooked for fear of Harm Minimisation programs like needle exchanges, safe injection clinics and heroin assisted treatment (HAT). It’s funny how public opinion and the media can change the minds of the UN so quickly.
In the end, the criminal justice system instrument for dealing with drug marke as the deterrent threat remains, the arre and incarceration of individuals is an expensive, and labour intensive process. -2009 UN Drug World Report
First, drug use should be treated as an illness. “People who take drugs need medical help, not criminal retribution,” said Mr. Costa. He appealed for universal access to drug treatment. Since people with serious drug problems provide the bulk of drug demand, treating this problem is one of the best ways of shrinking the market. [...] Fourth, he called for greater efficiency in law enforcement. He encouraged police to focus on the small number of high profile, high volume, and violent criminals instead of the large volumes of petty offenders. In some countries, the ratio of people imprisoned for drug use compared to drug trafficking is 5:1. “This is a waste of money for the police, and a waste of lives for those thrown in jail. Go after the piranhas, not the minnows,” said Mr. Costa. -UN Press ReleaseTHE LAST WORD
The UNODC will go through its annual charade of telling the world that it has 'contained' the drug problem and that they finally have organised crime gangs in their sights. But even their own propaganda cannot disguise the shocking long-term failure of international drug control efforts or disguise the fact that the UNODC oversees the system that gifts the vast illegal drug market to violent criminal profiteers, with disastrous consequences. -Danny Kushlick, Head of Policy at Transform